Stories of people who go (almost) missing in the woods under very strange circumstances
When I was a teenager, I worked at a Christian summer camp/resort, located in the rural foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. One night very late, like 2 a.m. late, several of us teenage kids snuck out of camp and found a dirt road out in the middle of the woods, where we proceeded to engage in some underage drinking. We were all sitting around in a small circle, just talking and laughing, when suddenly, an extremely loud and terrifying scream split the quiet night air just off the path where we were all huddled on the ground.
It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life!
The scream, or shriek, was so loud, long, intense and creepy that our entire group spontaneously lifted two feet off the ground and flew off the path, away from the scream. We tumbled down a small incline and landed together in a heap.
As we were all crying and freaking out in a little clump together, we were left with the following question:
What the hell was that scream in the woods?
We never did figure that out, but I remember that the scream was a sound like I had never heard, it was too long and loud and other-worldly to be an animal, and it was definitely not a human scream. There were no footfalls preceding the scream, or after the scream took place. Looking back, I believe it was supernatural or paranormal in nature.
Fast forward to my adult years. I love the outdoors and my husband and I have been backpacking to very remote, forested locations for 25 years annually. For the last several years, we have also brought our three kids out with us into the middle of nowhere for our family’s annual three day, two night backpacking trip.
And although we have never had any major problems in the woods, I was shocked to learn that there are a disturbingly large number of hikers, campers, and people just out walking their dogs or hunting in the forests near their home, who either go missing, or almost missing, in the woods under baffling circumstances.
You can learn all about this phenomena by googling Missing 411 and David Paulides. He has written several books available on his website (https://www.canammissing.com/page/page/8396197.htm) and produced two documentaries. David is a former police detective who was approached by a forest ranger several years ago about very strange disappearances in the woods. Many of these disappearances occur in National Parks (where we regularly hike!) and in clusters around the United States (in other words, disappearances will occur in the same general area). These disappearances also share common traits, such as the person who goes missing has some sort of a vulnerability (like a physical disability), and bad weather events often accompany these disappearances.
To be clear, I’m not talking about missing hikers who go off trail and end up lost in the woods, who are later found.
Instead, I am talking about people who are right in front of their loved ones one moment, and then the next moment they vanish into thin air, never to be seen again. Or, they are found many miles away (sometimes alive, sometimes dead) from their last location, in a place that is absolutely impossible to reach. Or, even more eerily, not a trace of the missing person is ever found, but their clothing is found months later in a random cave in a place that is extremely difficult to get to, several miles from where they were last seen, folded into a neat pile (please see my P.S. at the end of this post for more information on this).
In one story, a 12 year old boy disappeared after telling his dad he was going to change his socks and shoes after they got wet. He proceeded up a well-marked trail a short distance to get back to his boy scout troop and his tent, and was never seen again. His one wet sock, and only his one wet sock, was found extremely far away, wedged into a crack between two boulders.
And that’s just one story among hundreds of similarly bizarre and eerie stories that make no sense and leave us all wondering what is going on in the woods.
In a future post, I will write about Missing 411 stories and give you my take on these events. But in this post, I want to write about the other very real phenomena of people who go almost missing in the woods.
Just like with Missing 411 stories, these eye-witness stories share common attributes that cannot be ignored.
Consider this post the prequel or back-story to the Missing 411 stories.
In order to illustrate the common themes that I have heard (and read) countless times (based on internet searches and multiple podcasts I listen to), here is just one story that I believe encapsulates the common attributes of most of these almost missing stories. I have bolded the commonalities for ease of reading.
Almost Missing Stories:
The following stories are retold by Nic Ryan on his Paranormal Mysteries podcast #66 (and others), found here: https://tunein.com/podcasts/Paranormal-Podcasts/Paranormal-Mysteries-Podcast-p990107/.
This particular story comes from a reddit user named u/cacophonica who lives in the state of Missouri.
“The minute I stared trekking through the creek bed, my pit bull Fatty started whining. I ducked under the trees, shushed Fatty and stopped to listen to the woods surrounding us. I heard nothing. I heard literally nothing. No wind, no snapping twigs, not even any birds. Then, I began to feel really weird. I can’t really describe it as a gut feeling, but suddenly my body felt very queasy and over sensitive, and worse, I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched. Fatty was scared and trembling. Call it being an edgy teenager or anything else, but I felt this strange pull into the woods. There was no sound but I felt like something was calling me, luring me deeper into the woods. I walked forward, aware that my dog had firmly planted himself at the fallen trees. He was shaking all over and yelped at me as I walked away, but he didn’t come with me. He also didn’t leave, which I believe potentially saved my ass that day.
I left Fatty behind and eventually got to the part of the creek that I had never been to. It was a clearing with a ring of trees surrounding it, with the creek stretching far ahead and going around an unseen corner. The sun hadn’t moved and it was still silent. I stood in place for a minute and considered turning around. The clearing was creepy and felt devoid of everything. I felt like if I walked around that corner, which was just about 100 feet away, that something terrible would happen. It felt like something was just waiting for me to walk into it, unsuspecting.
I took a couple more steps, and suddenly I heard my dog yelping frantically behind me. He kept lunging forward, but wouldn’t move any distance forward. I finally realized that something was very wrong. I turned around again to look back at the clearing. It was pitch black outside. I shit you not. Seconds ago the sun wasn’t even close to going down below the horizon, and now the stars were out. No sun. No light.
I stared hard at the trees around the corner, seeing nothing but elongated shadows. I heard a twig snap. All of a sudden my ears started to ring, and panic flooded my entire body.
I whipped around and shot back towards the fallen trees, sprinting towards my dog. He was snarling and barking like mad, and when I ducked under the trees, both of us sprinted back towards the house.
The entire time I felt like I had death on my heels, and Fatty never once ran ahead of me, staying right at my side the entire way back.When I made it home I checked the clock. During a walk that usually took ten minutes, I had been gone three hours.
To this day I have never felt so prowled upon in the woods. I don’t know what wanted me in the woods that day. I didn’t see what it was and it said nothing to me, but I ignored every natural instinct I had to run until it was almost too late. My dog being there may have been the reason I didn’t wander deep into the woods of (Seligman) Missouri and succumb to someone or something in the dark. I have never told anyone in my waking life about this.”
From another reddit user called uclathemach, and also recounted in Nik Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast #66, comes an experience that happened on a camping trip with his youth group in the state of New Hampshire. At the end of the two day trip, he took a walk by himself down a hill to an area with a make-shift archery range, in order to tear it down. He made a pile of garbage to bring back to camp, and was about to head back, when he says that all the sounds in the forest just suddenly ceased, as if a curtain of silence had just fallen down behind him. He then says that he could sense some sort of a humming sensation. He goes on to relay the following:
“For some inexplicable reason I had snapped my head to the right, and noticed there was an area with thinner brush, like an opening, and I started walking toward it, like I was being drawn. I could feel the pull to go deeper into the woods grow much stronger. Looking ahead, the woods were in deep shadow, with a strange group of four trees about 75 feet away, lit by a shaft of light, beaming at an angle from above. The light was a very strange golden color. The bases of the trees were glowing, in a beckoning way, with the rest of the woods in shadow, and the trees lit up. The compulsion to investigate the four trees was almost overwhelming. The thought of “come see; come quickly; come right now!” was insistent. My head was pounding, like a headache without the pain. As I was about to take another step forward, another separate feeling from the depths of my being started screaming at me to stop immediately. In an instant, viscerally, I knew that despite how enticing this call was, if I proceeded forward towards those trees, I would be lost to the world.”
The following three mini-stories are the highlights from longer stories written in by eye-witnesses and then retold via Nic Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast.
“The trail markers suddenly disappeared, and a wall of silence fell on the forest. The silence was broken by a large, startling snap! There were trees I didn’t see. Certain plants that I know for sure that weren’t there before. My eyes started to fixate on a particularly un-nerving dark section of the forest. Every alarm bell in my head was pinging. My senses were not working anymore. Whatever light was in this area seemed to bend around this central point, somewhat like how a cloaking device works. It was a minor distortion, but enough to make it strangely obvious. I then noticed how I hadn’t heard a peep from the forest this entire time, and I was feeling very cold. I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom.”
“That was when things began to feel very weird. I no longer felt uneasy. But instead, I felt this deep peace, like I was asleep and dreaming. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and climbing the mountain, but it was like I was in a trance, not making the decision to continue, but instead, being drawn upwards. We kept walking in total silence. That sound (like a drum-beat) was pounding and getting louder. I looked at the (water) falls and felt an intense longing to continue on further up the mountain. We were still for such a long time, until finally my cousin said “I think if we keep going, we don’t ever come back.”
“So I’m taking pictures of wild horses, and I hear “hey, come here,” seemingly to come to the right of me. I look and that part of the forest is deeper, and I couldn’t see anything standing or hiding that way. Sky (the writer’s dog) on the other hand heard it and jerked that way in the lead.“Come closer, this way!” I focused myself to look through the trees and long grass and there was now a simple stone path that weirdly didn’t have any grass or growth around it. But I could clearly see a cobbled path. So, Sky and I started making our way down the path. I didn’t notice anything at the time but I could hear Sky whimpering and nothing else. It was like all the other sound was muted. I was in some weird sort of haze. “Just a bit further,” a woman’s voice whispered to us while giggling. Sky then shook me out of my trance by stopping, putting her hackles up, and growling at something. I shook my head and suddenly the haze and confusion disappeared. We were still on the path, but I had a very weird sense of dread starting to creep over me and we ran back to the clearing.“Come back!” A woman screamed at us, as it seemed to follow and echo around us. We made it to the clearing and back to the cabin. We were only in the woods for what seemed like an hour. But it was now 9 p.m. and I have no recollection of the missing time we had encountered” (Nic Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast number #128)
“One night I was heading back from an after-school walk, when I heard someone say my name. “Johnny come here!” It was like my mom’s voice, but distorted. I wasn’t far from the cabin, so I assumed maybe she was calling out for me. So, I rushed home but once the house was in view, I stopped. I noticed that the sound was still going but was angry now. “Johnny, come here, now!” I knew then that the voice was not my mom’s. I could have sworn I heard crunching leaves behind me but I turned around and nothing was there.” (Unexplained Encounters podcast: (August 5, 2021 podcast). Source here: https://www.audible.com/pd/Darkness-Prevails-Podcast-TRUE-Horror-Stories-Podcast/B08K57L776)
As you can see, the above stories have common threads of weirdness that some have encountered in the woods. And here are those similar threads, in bullet-point form (as I love bullets):
- The woods will suddenly go silent.
- Your dog (or animal) will start acting weird, stressed, or scared.
- You feel like you are being watched. You will also feel dread or fear.
- You may feel confused, locked in a strange trance, or under a spell.
- Your surrounding will seem “off.”
- A new path that you have never seen will suddenly appear.
- You will have a strong sense, or even an overwhelming urge, to explore deeper into the woods.
- You might take a few more steps, but then something will stop you.
- After you exit the woods, you will encounter the problem of lost time.
Let me get into detail about a couple of the common attributes above that I believe are important to highlight.
The forest becomes strangely silent:
I realize that the forest can and will go silent if a large predator is in the area (like a cougar, bear, or wolf, etc.). I am not saying that this is not the case at times. In those events, there are still a few sounds to be heard (like crickets, the wind, etc.). And usually, there are no other mysterious occurrences that go along with this silence. I am talking about a creepy, all-encompassing silence that brings along several other mysterious signals with it.
Your surroundings seem off or strange:
Here are just a few of the occurrences based on several stories I have heard. The trees or the surroundings will look or act strange; for example, you may notice new plants you have never seen or a beautiful tree in the middle of a clearing that looks particularly enchanting. You might notice a bad odor, for example the smell of blood, matted fur, sulfur, wet dog, rotting corpse, etc. You might hear a strange sound like a low and deep growl, the snapping of a twig, a whistle, a baby crying, a person whispering, or a drumbeat. You might even hear a familiar voice calling to you from the woods (the voice of your wife, mom, friend, sister, husband or your camp counselor. I have heard all of these and more).
Something will stop you:
I believe this is the Spirit of God who is trying to protect you. Or at the very least your own gut instincts trying to protect you. Maybe you get scared. Maybe the bark of your dog pulls you back to reality. Maybe you develop a sense of sudden clarity about the insanity of this moment. Maybe God speaks into your spirit and tells you to TURN AROUND AND RUN. In one of the stories above, the young camper had the impression that if he kept going deeper into the woods, he would be “lost to this world.” Lost to this world is the exact phrase that kept pinging around in his head, so he decided it was time to turn back.
Once you safely exit the woods, you might experience the real and unexplainable phenomena of lost time. Lost time is, in a nutshell, not being able to logically account for the amount of time something takes compared to what it normally takes. For example, walking your dog on a trail you have walked many times which normally takes you one hour, after the bizarre event, will take you four hours to complete. You will have no logical recollection of that time period.
Before we move on to what is going on and what can be done, I will summarize the common themes for ease of remembering:
Woods Silent/Dog Crazy/Dread or Fear /Being Watched/ Weird Trance/ Can’t Think/ Trees Strange/ Bad Smell/ New Path/ Twig Snaps/ Name called/Feeling Drawn/Something Scary/Something Odd/Something Alluring/ Don’t Keep Going/Turn Around/Yay You’re Out/Lost Time.
What is really going on in the woods?
Before I give my theory, consider the following: David Paulides (the police detective I mentioned earlier) does not give an answer or opinion of what he thinks is happening with respect to all of the Missing 411 stories he has investigated over the years, but he theorizes that something is hunting or stalking these missing men and women in the woods. I just ordered two out of seven (or nine) books he has written so I can’t wait to figure out what he has figured out.
But after listening to and reading countless almost missing and missing 411 stories, I believe that this is a paranormal/supernatural/spiritual problem and needs to be handled using spiritual methods. Sure, be cautious. Sure, bring a rifle. Sure, bring a map, compass, extra flashlight, extra food, extra water (or water pump). Do what you need to do to feel safe. However, if this is a spiritual problem, which I believe it is, then these items I just listed, while wonderful, will not be enough.
There are two power sources in this universe; the power of God, and the power of the devil. I believe that in some of these cases, people are being lured, stalked, hunted, frightened, or just plain watched and observed by demons or demonic beasts or someone using evil methods in the forests and beyond. I also believe that in some of the cases, it is the work of a serial killer. However, for those cases that occur in the middle of the woods, I believe that the chances of a serial killer lurking and waiting 12 miles off grid is extremely rare. I will get more into all of this this in my next post.
What can you do?
My first suggestion is to pray. Pray that God will protect and help you and/or your family (or friends) before you head into the woods. Pray specifically that God will protect you from the evil one and his evil spirits. Secondly, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, there are additional things that you can do using the power and authority of Jesus Chirst. You have the authority to rebuke demons and make them go in Jesus’s name. You can also anoint your campsite with olive oil or even cooking oil and pray for God to seal and protect your campsite.
And now that you know the first sign of trouble (hint: the title of this blog post) pray out loud right away if things start to get weird.
I plan to write a follow-up post on Missing 411 stories, and I will get more into practical advice at that time. I will also dig into demonic creatures and what they are. Did you know that demonic beasts are actually a very real thing and there are Bible verses about these creatures? Unfortunately, it is true.
My goal for writing this post is not for you to never set foot in the woods again. I love the forest, and I love hiking! I plan to keep hiking well into my 90s if I am able. My desire is that you continue to enjoy the woodlands but be kept safe while you do so.
And to be clear, I think it is a very rare and unusual thing to have any of these weird supernatural events occur on your family’s backpacking trip, or if you are out walking or hunting in your woods.
However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we are living in very strange times. Things are changing rapidly and many things that were once considered “normal” are gone, and our “new normal” is here.
I would rather be prepared for any event. I hope you feel this way as well. So please, keep on enjoying the beauty and serenity of the deep forests of the U.S and Canada and beyond!
But my one take-away for you is to ask God to protect you before you venture into the woods. And if something crazy starts to happen, stop right away by praying out loud, right there in the middle of the forest.
Pray something like this: “God please protect me from whatever weird thing is happening right now. In Jesus name, Amen.” That’s it!
I will close with a story that I believe illustrates the direct intervention of God in an almost missing story.
The quick backstory is as follows: a young boy became lost in the woods near his home in Europe. This boy had played in these woods his whole life and knew them like the back of his hand. He had a feeling that something was compelling him to go deeper into the woods. He then heard what sounded like crashing branches and it sounded like something heavy was walking around. He writes:
I was praying while searching my way around desperately. Something in my head was screaming at me to turn around, and I listened. And what I am about to tell you, it’s true, but it’s going to sound very bizarre. When I turned, I saw a man in a white long dress, with long white sleeves and dark hair. When I saw him, I felt even more of a sense of relief. It was like I was safe as long as he was here. He raised his hand and pointed to the left of where I was standing. “That way?” I said. He nodded. I looked at where he was pointing and back at him, but when I tried to face him again, the man was gone. Scared out of my mind, I started running in the direction he pointed and, five minutes later, I broke through the trees. When I was finally out, I realized I was on the opposite side of the forest. Somehow, in that short time, I had walked several kilometers in the wrong direction. I made my way back home and later told this story to my grandma, and of course she told my parents, who were not happy about what I did. For a long time, I was not allowed in the forest. However, when I did tell my grandma about the man, she looked at me, and said that maybe it was my guardian angel. (Unexplained Encounters podcast, number 207.)
I think that Grandma could be right!
Let’s all stay safe and continue to enjoy the forest!
And if the woods suddenly go silent, you know what to do.
UPDATE: I have just released (as of October 6, 2022) my brand new Missing 411 post, which is the next post in this short series! What is happening with hikers, campers, and normal everyday people who go missing under strange but similar circumstances? Find out here: Missing 411: A pebble in my hiking boot
Common elements of Missing 411 from Reddit user xofiate:
- People who go missing usually do so in National Parks, around large bodies of water, or near boulder fields.
- People from both ends of the intellectual spectrum go missing (e.g. people who have intellectual divergencies or disabilities go missing, as well as individuals who work careers as scientists, etc).
- People from both ends of the physical spectrum go missing (e.g. people who are physically disabled and cannot walk long distances, as well as individuals who live extremely active lives and are very fit).
- If the missing individual is found alive, they usually have memory loss about the entire event. Children sometimes tell weird stories about how they went missing. I recall one where a toddler went missing on a rather cold night and somehow survived. She claimed a wolf fed her berries from the palm of it’s hand and that’s how she survived.
- If the missing individual is found deceased, the cause of death is almost never determined. Often seeming as though they died without a cause at all. Medical examiners usually write that they died from “exposure” if they do not have a better answer to give.
- The missing are found in areas that seem difficult – if not impossible – to reach by foot, or in the time that has lapsed. Such as a child being found many miles away in just a matter of a few hours. A common example is children as young as 2-3 going missing and being found in high elevations, such as mountains, 2,000 ft in the air. Sometimes the children have their clothes on backwards or inside out, and their parents claim that they can’t even dress themselves yet.
- The missing are found in an area that’s been searched by Search and Rescue teams numerous times over a period of days (usually a week or longer). Sometimes they’re even found on the trail that’s used to access the area they’re searching. Almost as if they’re placed there intentionally in order to surely be found by SAR. Search and Rescue teams are meticulous about their searches.
- A lot of cases involve people who go missing for a week, but only died a day or two prior to being found, which begs the question of where they were during their time missing as well as what happened to them.
- The shoes tend to go missing, either just one or both. Many people are found in bizarre places at high altitudes or in tough terrain, and their socks or the soles of their feet don’t have a spec of dirt or wear on them. This is true for children too.
- Search ans Rescue dogs will be unable to pick up a scent, or if they are, they’ll follow it a few feet and then begin acting bizarrely. They’ll circle and then sit down. This is not common behavior for SAR canines.
- Investigators do not find any tracks nine times out of ten. If they do, they seem to stop inexplicably and lead nowhere, as if the person just vanished into thin air. Animal attacks are rules out by experts.
- Paulides will not investigate a case where an individual has a known history of mental illness. He usually won’t investigate cases where there’s a likelihood that this person left and disappeared by their own accord.
Hope you enjoyed your rabbit hole for the day and thanks for reading and your ongoing support!